SOSCH visits Brussels for the development of a new European CLT Network – April 2022

SOSCH happily returned to foreign travel last month for a two-day meeting of partners between members of the new European Community Land Trust Network (ECLTN). Our Chief Executive and Partnership and Learning Manager travelled to Brussels to join colleagues from Belgium, The Netherlands, France, England, Ireland and Germany for a series of strategic sessions to build the emerging network.

The ECLTN is an extension of what was previously SHICC (Sustainable Housing for Inclusive and Cohesive Cities), a North-West European Interreg programme that ended in 2021 and tackled rising house prices, and in which SOSCH were the sole Scottish partner. The new ECLTN brings CLTs and community-led housing enablers from SHICC together with design agencies, social entrepreneurs, and researchers to develop a viable response to the dual housing and climate crises. This initial stage of network development (January-June 2022) is funded by €100,000 from the Laudes Foundation and involves two in-person meet ups, in addition to ongoing online collaboration. 

Themes throughout the two-day planning sessions were a) understanding the impacts of community-led housing and how to capture it, b) opportunities to overcome barriers to community-led housing development, and c) network solutions that extend individual activities to create a more supportive sector. The long-term goal of the network is to upscale community-led housing models as a just and responsible transition to a decarbonised built environment. This trip required founding partners to jointly develop a roadmap that launches this work.

Equally important to the trip were three site visits to our host, Community Land Trust Brussels (CLTB) developments to tour their projects and meet with residents. First, the network visited CLTB’s Indépendance project in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean, which consists of 21 Passive-standard homes that were custom designed for and by the residents, a communal area, and a garden. Next, we visited CLTB’s pilot project Arc-en-Ciel, also in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean, which includes 32 apartments, a communal garden, and an additional feminist and family shared space. The network then visited ‘Le Nid’ in Anderlecht to speak with residents of the 7-apartment building and tour the neighbourhood garden and community room.

As CLTB is mainland Europe’s first CLT, it was wonderful to visit their pioneering projects and hear lessons learned from each new development. Although we were already familiar with CTLB’s work from SHICC, this trip reminded SOSCH of the value of spending time on site, speaking with residents, and being able to observe people enjoy their homes and gardens to fully appreciate the successes of community-led housing and the work that we do together with communities.

Arc-en-Ciel, Molenbeek April 2022

Some key takeaways from the sessions:

  • Partners in every country are facing a steep increase in building and constructions costs, but we are inspired by the range of experimental responses within the network and will closely follow the cost-saving delivery methods that our partners are trialling. These include greater resident involvement during builds and ‘exposed’ or ‘raw’ design aesthetics where appropriate.
  • It is increasingly apparent that the community-led housing sector must begin to develop comprehensive impact measurement for the broad range of social and environmental effects of CLH homes and projects, if we are to competitively vie for funding and land.

We continue to be committed to opportunities to collaborate and exchange with our European partners and are cheered by the lasting connections SOSCH built in SHICC. We are also enthusiastic about growing the international network through 2022 ‘and beyond’ with this series of joint work.

SOSCH will return for a second in-person European CLT Network planning meeting in June, and it can’t come fast enough!

You can view the European CLT Network charter below: